Two women working as street prostitutes in Sheffield have died in the last six months – a ‘horrendous’ increase which has sparked a fresh appeal for women to get help.
Sali Harwood, manager of Sheffield Working Women’s Opportunities Project, urged people living in Neepsend and Shalesmoor to contact her about the issue.
Speaking at a meeting of Kelham Island Community Association, she said: “Since 2000 we have had 17 deaths of women. The majority were drug overdoses.
“Since April this year we have had two deaths, one in the past month.
“This is a very small group – to have two deaths within five months is horrendous.”
Coun Jillian Creasy, Sheffield Council Green Party member for Sheffield Central, said prostitution affected the appearance of the area.
She said: “Businesses are saying this is really off-putting for us when there are condoms and needles right outside our door when we’re trying to show someone around our factory.
“It’s probably not going to go away, much as we’d like it to, so it’s useful if residents and businesses know who they can contact. You can’t solve it, but you can maybe shift that bit of the problem.”
Ms Harwood said: “We provide outreach four nights a week. We go around all the areas where we know the women are likely to be.
“Women know they can have sexual health screening, needle exchange, condoms, cups of tea, pot noodles and lots of TLC. Because no matter what the myth is, those women don’t want to be out there.
“We’re not promoting or condoning prostitution, but these women are going to do it, so what we’re trying to say is ‘if you’re going to do it, let’s do it safely’.
“That is the whole of our remit. I am willing to talk to anybody that has issues.”
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said it was important not to overstress the issue.
He said: “It’s not an enormous problem. I think it’s important we don’t create the impression it is, because it will undermine regeneration.
“In four years, I have had two residents raise the issue and it was resolved.
“So I think we need to take care with not running away with the idea that this is a huge problem.”